Minatomachi (Inland Sea)
Fishing is one of those careers that has been passed down from generation to generation. Japan always seems to thrive on its plentiful fish and seafood that not only feeds its citizens but also provides a good living for its fishermen. Documentary filmmaker Kazuhiro Sôda observes and interacts with the remaining ageing residents of the Japanese fishing village of Ushimado. Minatomachi (Inland Sea) slowly reveals their stories.
Elderly fisherman Mr Murata is nearing 90 but that doesn’t slow him down when it comes to work. He laments how fishing nets used to be cheap and the fish expensive but how that has changed. Mrs Komiyama is in her mid-80s and fast as a whip. She shares difficult and intimate family stories all the while directing Sôda to film new people and locations. Meanwhile the camera and the villagers interact with the countless island cats in a playful and loving way.
Sôda shoots in gorgeous black and white and creates an intimate space surrounding Murata by shooting him from low angles. He slowly lowers what seems like a neverending fishing net into the water and one can really hear and feel his solitude and slow-paced existence. Close ups of Murata’s strong hands reflect his dedication to his work even though it’s at times a thankless job. On the opposite side of the spectrum is Mrs Komiyama who rushes here and there, causing the filmmaker to try to keep up and chase after her. In contrast to how the camera follows these two clashing personalities, the reflective moments in a cemetery demonstrate both the strong history and also how times are changing.
With a running time of 122 minutes Inland Sea might have benefited from some trimming. It’s a shame that this type of observational documentary might not be engaging for mainstream audiences. The stories of ageing fishing villagers like Ushimado and its inhabitants should not be forgotten with the passing of its elders. The way the camera breezes from one story to the next, being welcomed to follow and take part in daily routines, is uplifting. The niceties found in small island communities are often lacking in urban areas. The unfiltered way elderly people interact with each other and the filmmaker are some of the film’s shining moments. Inland Sea, if given the chance, catches one off-guard with its heart-warming authenticity.
Minatomachi (Inland Sea) does not have a UK release date yet.
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Watch the trailer for Minatomachi (Inland Sea) here: